tv Charlie Rose PBS March 31, 2010 11:30pm-12:30am EDT
broadcast. tonight, there's a new movie called "greenberg." we talk to the direct orono what baumbach and the star, ben stillor. >> it's somebody who can't get out of his own way. he's somebody who has an idea of himself that is based on his highest ambitions when he was in his early 20s, his fantasy of what his life could be, and now he's 20 years later and he never became that person, but he's trapped, still, in the self-consciousness, the embarrassment, the disappointment of never becoming who he thought he might b.. >> i think what he's going through is a very human think. i think noah decided to write about a person that is trying to get through the day.
he's trying to live with his own... with his... keep his ego intact, his sense of self intact which i think we recall trying to do and you have to live with these little everyday... you know, those little things that... you know, those moments in life where somebody says something to you that hurts your feelingstor guy who gets the job that you didn't... that you wanted and you can't really go around feeling sorry for yourself about it but it hurts a little bit. or, you know, these little minor indignities that happen to us throughout our lives and yet when you don't have a family there supporting you or you don't have any successes that can then boost your ego, you have to live with that and live with yourself. and i think this guy is just trying to get through the day. >> rose: going to the movies with stiller and baumbach next. ♪ ♪
if you've had a coke in the last 20 years, ( screams ) you've had a hand in giving college scholarships... and support to thousands of our nation's... most promising students. ♪ ( coca-cola 5-note mnemonic ) captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: noah baumbach and ben stiller are here. they each made their director y'all debuts in the 1990s with
so-called generation x films. stiller with 1994 "reality bites" and baumbach the following year request w "kicking and screaming." >> do you have a problem with me? if you do, let's get this out. have i, like, stepped over some line in the sands of coolness with you because... >> come on! >> no, excuse me if somebody doesn't know the secret hand shake with you. >> there's no secret hand shake. there's an i.q. prerequisite but there's no secret handshake. >> i... this is... you... this guy... you've got this whole like thing with the world, don't you? boy, that's great. that's wonderful. guess what? i'm a human being. we're human beings, people, okay? we're not, like, intelligence quotations or whatever. >> i could care less about your stupid classes. is g.i. joe a safe doll to give kids at christmas? what's the affect of t.v. weather man on society? >> my classs? let's talk about your classes, okay? your dinosaur classes and all that [no audio]. let's talk about your friends. let's talk about how you guys
are all in love with each other and how sick you make me with your stupid games. those trivia gangs. max love's grover. skippy does otis. ding they all do each other and it drives me nuts! ding that, skippy! get a [no audio] life. >> nice dimestore psychoanalysis. >> rose: over the next 15 years they have each launched successful careers but in different ways stiller has become a top comic actor and director with films like "zoolander" "meet ifockers" and "tropic thunder" and baumbach directed "margot at the wedding" and "the squid and the whale." now two have come together for "greenberg." here's a look. >> people don't call it my birthday anymore. i don't call people on their birthdays so why should they call me. it's weird aging, right? >> youth is wasted on the young. >> i'd go further. i'd go life is wasted on...
people. >> what are you doing these days? >> i've been in new york but right now i'm trying to do nothing for a while. >> that's brave at our age. >> dear starbucks, in your attempt to manufacture culture out of fast food coffee, you've been surprisingly successful for the most part. the part that isn't covered by the most part sucks. >> i'm impressed by you. >> in what way? you >> you seem fine doing nothing. you don't feel pressure to be successful... i mean by other people's standards. >> what do people say about he? >> they say you don't make any efforts. >> i'm making my brother's family a doghouse. >> can we take it slow? i just got out of a long relationship and i don't want to go from just having sex to just having sex to just having sex. >> who's the third "just having sex"? >> you-- if we had sex. >> he seems vulnerable.
>> my dog is sick. >> survival rate is about 50-50. >> this is stupid but i can't catch it, right? >> no, it's something only dogs can get. >> i want to be doing nothing. i'm doing nothing deliberatery. >> you like me so much more than you think you do. >> i don't understand what happened to me. >> it's huge. you finally embraced the life you never planned on. >> i'm freaked out by you kids. your parents were too perfect to parent. those baby mozart songs, you're all a.d.d. and car pell tunnel. i hope i die before i end up meeting one of you in a job interview.
>> rose: joining me now, writer and director noah baumbach and ben stiller who stars as roger greenberg. i'm pleased to have them together at this table. welcome. great to see you again. so first of all, this question. when he had "reality bites" before and it came out first, you were... >> devastated. (laughter) >> rose: thrilled for him? flatterd? >> i was trying to get "kicking and screaming" made and i thought... there was this general x wave was just starting and i thought if i could be the first one to capitalize on this i'll have a sure fire hit. and then heard this movie "reality bites" is coming out and... >> rose: it's going to beat me. >> and it did. >> rose: at what point did you guys say "you have to work together"? when you sent him a script. >> well, after... you saw "quid and the whale, i think." >> rose: >> i loved "squid and the whale." and "margot at the wedding." he's making movies that are
interesting and about complex characters so when... you know, you sent me the script, right? and i really felt like i would have done whatever you sent me because he's the kind of filmmaker i would want to work with. >> rose: why is he that? what is it about that i mean makes him the kind of filmmaker you want to work with? >> i think he's just interested in making movies that are about people and they're not simple and they have comedy in them but they're not the movies just... they're not comedies just to be comedies but yet they are funny but they're real. they sort of aren't... they sort of aren't... there's no genre to them other than, i think, real, interesting movies about interesting people. and i think... >> rose: men in mid-life crisis? or crisis? >> i think it's... yeah, i mean, i think the greenberg character is a guy who's sort of dealing with being at the age he is. but i feel like all the... noah's uncompromising in his film making. he shows real people.
he's not afraid to show characters that are flawed. >> rose: what does location mean to you? i mean, brooklyn was central. >> yeah. well, i think in both the cases of "squid and the whale" and "greenberg" i wanted... i had... part of what attracted know the story and the characters was the location and with "squid" i had grown up in brooklyn so i wanted to tell that particular story and that particular place and use mid-affection for the place and the specifics... in some ways while i'm doing it i'm not thinking so much of, oh, i have to present location this way, some kind of grand way. i'm just trying to use it as specifically and meaningfully to me as possible. and with l.a. i really started to change. my feelings about l.a. started to change and i wanted... >> rose: when? >> when i met jennifer jason leigh, my... she grew up in l.a. >> rose: your wife. >> yes, my wife. >> rose: (laughs) and producer in the movie.
>> rose: he had a hard time saying that for a moment. >> mother of your child. >> well, i didn't know where to start. >> rose: your collaborator! >> yes, yes. the people at home... (laughter) when a man loves a woman. sometimes they want to make it official. >> rose: (laughs) >> but she's so many things beyond that. >> rose: but then we digress. >> she grew up in l.a. and-and-so being in l.a. with heresy started to see the city differently. i saw it as a place where people really lived and i started spending more time there and i have a hard time saying it but started to live there partially and i wanted to do something there. i wanted to use the city in the way i saw the city. >> rose: who is roger greenberg? (laughs) yes, exactly! (laughs) >> thank you? >> rose: this is who you have thought about when you thought about roger greenberg?
in other words, the character that he could play? >> well it's interesting because people have said well ben is known for these sort of bigger comedies. what med what made you think of him for this movie. but first when i start writing i generally don't think of actors, i try to imagine these people exist somewhere on the planet or i use people i know or they become real mixtures of lots of things. but once you get to the reality, okay, we have to cast this part, i had initially written the part younger, ten years younger. and i had a really hard time thinking who have could play it and i kept thinking "i wish ben stiller were ten years younger, he'd be great." >> i had that thought. >> rose: 30 years younger. (laughs) >> ben is still thinking that. >> get me a young ben stiller! >> rose: that's the last thing you want to hear. >> thank you, noah. >> rose: okay but... >> if you can't make ben stiller younger, make your character older. >> rose: okay, well thank you
for that. but you haven't answered the question yet. who is roger greenberg? before we talk about ben stiller is ben stiller wants to know. >> rose: somebody who who can't get out of his own way. i think he's somebody who has an idea of himself that is based on his highest ambitions when he was in his early 20s, his fantasy of what his life could be and now it's 20 years later and he never became that person but he's trapped still in the self-consciousness, the embarrassment, the disappointment of never becoming who he thought he might b. and instead of accepting that, as a lot of people do, of just going with the reality of one's life, he's holding on the some idea of himself and it's... i think
older he's gotten it's become a real fight for him. it's an internal fight between the person he really is, who i think is a stranger to him, and the person he's pretending to be. >> rose: is it by definition... or did you by definition want it to be funny? >> yeah. and that's partly why i thought of ben. because i wanted somebody who could play the character totally honestly, authentically as possible but who would have... who would know what was funny in the character at the same time. i think of the movie as a comedy. not everyone agrees with me. but i do think at the heart of it, it's funny. >> yeah, i mean... >> rose: go ahead. >> that's what i was trying to say about noah's movie is that there's humor within them but he's not going for something that is a joke. for me when i read the part it was just a very interesting guy who had a lot of issues but wasn't one thing or the other
and was struggling and i felt an empathy that he had toward the characters. he wasn't just trying to show, oh, look at this guy he's so judgmental and he can be a jerk and he can criticize everybody but can't look at himself but it's easy to write off a guy like that. and what i thought was interesting is no that noah wanted to show this character and the other characters in the movies real people and really i think say, like, you know, even people like this who get in their own way or it can be considered tough to be around and difficult people are human beings and let's go on a journey with them and try to care about him without making him quote/unquote likable. >> rose: did you see that character as something different if your previous work? as you suggested earlier? >> i saw it first of all just as a very well written character. and a character that had a lot of specifics and all the characters in noah's movies are written that way. i think his characters are specific and character oriented.
as an actor, it's exciting because you don't get script likes that very often, at least i don't get scripts like that very often where there's all these clue who-to-who the guy is that are written more in the way you read it, the more you explore it, the more you see how well thought out it is. and so in the rehearsal process, you know, i think there was a lot of time where we just talked to each other and we'd read the scenes just me and noah and i would have questions about why he was saying something and his answers really help med to understand what the guy was there were places where i connected with him and places where i saw people i know the character. and then there were other places where i was like i didn't quite understand why he was being the way he was. and he would give me these answers that then would help me understand more who the guy was. the more i read it, the more empathy i ended up feeling for the character. >> rose: it is said that you have taken many characters and once shooting begins enhanced them, made them more interesting
added to them. is it less likely to be done if something is so finely written as noah writes it? >> yeah, i mean, that process, the improvisation, whether it's in rehearsal or on the set or in comedies, i think it's actually a really good thing. i think it can bring life to things and when you're working with actors who are used to that they can bring so much to it. but this script was written so specifically and became clear when we were rehearsing that noah really wanted to do it as written... >> rose: (laughs) >> as i found out. >> rose: imagine my surprise. >> maybe i can say something here about, like, this and he's like, yeah, yeah. then we'd come back to the next rehearsal and get the new script and it would be exactly same as the old script. >> rose: (laughs) >> i just rephoto copied them. >> and he'd make changes but they were... >> rose: he thought about it. >> i'll take the better idea. >> rose: (laughs) >> but that was great because that really forced me as an actor to not make it more
convenient for me as a person to play the part by changing it to make it feel more comfortable but really to understand where the character was coming from. and i found that very freeing. i found that... then the process became about trying to find the character through what he had written around memorizing the lines and he would shoot these scenes from beginning to end so we'd come in... it was a low budget movie so we'd have to shoot a lot of pages a day so we'd have to know a five, six, seven, eight page scene wordperfect. just that process of learning it helped ingrain it to me. >> did you feel any need to try to make roger likable? >> i felt a need to make him understandable. i needed to understand him for me. i wasn't thinking about likability other than trying to understand why he was saying the things he was saying. why he was doing what he was doing. i felt if i could understand
that it would make sense to me, then i at least could have a logic for the character. and i don't think anybody... i thought he was a good person. i think we started from the place he's a good guy trying to get through life >> i think he's a better guy he thinks he is. >> rose: that's my point. you think he needs to find the person he is rather than the person he thinks about being. >> and i think he makes that discovery in the movie that he's actually a better guy than maybe he wants to think of himself. >> i don't think he's that self-aware. as a character, the audience is probably more aware of what's wrong with him than he is. >> rose: he doesn't have a mirror. >> and that's what i think part of the journey of the movie is, this guy sort of getting outside himself and sort of realizing that there's something wrong. his life isn't happening the way he wants it to and it's not everybody else's fault but it actually might be his fault and why is that. that can be a very painful thing
to realize. >> rose: where did you find greta and why? >> well, i'd seen greta in these small movies, what they're calling the mumble corps movies. >> rose: where did that title come from? >> i think somebody connected to it used in the an interview and it caught on. although i think they resent that. >> rose: (laughs) >> as we probably resented jen x back then. >> rose: was that new york magazine, who did gwen x. >> well, there was that book gen x. >> rose: greta. >> i had seen here in these little movies and i thought there was something totally authentic and seemingly unacted about how she did about things. i mean, there were a lot of really good actors and i went through a period where i watched a bunch of these things because i'd heard good stuff about them and there were a lot of interesting non-actors in some
cases in these movies but she stood out to me and jennifer and i had her come to our apartment and audition for florence and i figured, well, we'll keep it very low key. we won't put her with ben immediately. we'll just sort of... i didn't know. i didn't know if she... because the mumble core movies tend to be impize ifed if she could do something scripted and do it that way. part of me wanted to shoot her then. it was... i had planned for her to read two scenes and then jennifer and i kept giving her more. we had her read the whole script. it was... she was remarkable and it was clear that she connected to something... i mean, as ben did with roger, she connected to something very deeply about florence. >> rose: what was that? >> well, i mean, i don't know in her own life what it is. but i think she... she... there's a... an openness to that
character and a willingness to... >> rose: accept? >> accept and... and go with someone. in some ways the patience to let somebody-- in this case greenberg-- keep tripling over himself until he the approximates something a little more... i don't know what to say. but he becomes... in some ways she's waiting for him to find himself. >> rose: how was it for you both as an actor and in the character? >> well, she was pretty amazing right from the... we did read together. noah had her come in and we read together and she was so real. she sang a song a cappella because she sings in the movie and noah asked her to sing. she sang so beautifully. and her heart and her spirit was just this incredible open book and there were a couple actresses that came in and read
and after she left i was so secretly rooting for her because i felt like this girl is so genuine and real and sweet and beautiful and everything that i think the character, you know, really needed to be. and just working with her was amazing because she was so happy to be there. she was so committed to the work she took it so seriously. so not jaded that for me as an actor i saw her being very proprietary of her character and it really sort of set the tone and for me to look at my character, she looked at her character as a real person. and maybe it's because, i don't know, i've done comedies or gotten cynical or something but it's so easy to make fun of that attitude in an actor and i've done that many times. to see her take responsibility for this person and protect that character because she felt that was her responsibility, for me it rubbed off on me. and from the beginning she was a great partner and we were so in
these scenes together. we had to know the lines together. we had to run lines together. we had to just do these scenes and a couple of them were awkward and there were tough scenes some of them but i felt like she was always there as a partner. >> rose: roll tape. there is florence, greta, tells ben greenberg she's impressed by his ability the to do nothing. >> i'm impressed by you. >> in who way? >> i don't know. i mean, you seem really fine doing nothing. it's like you don't feel all that pressure to be successful. i mean by other people's standards. >> i'm... you know i almost had a record deal when i got out of college. i haven't done nothing. >> cool. >> i want to be doing nothing. i'm doing nothing deliberatery. >> that's what i'm saying. i don't know that i could do nothing and be that cool with everything. >> well, there's so much crap
out there. >> you could stay over. wink-wink. >> um, i'm not supposed to... um... i'm trying not to... it... yeah, okay. >> rose: why does she like him? >> well, it's funny about that scene is how she takes him totally seriously about his doing nothing and then he suddenly takes offense. >> rose: (laughs) >> i think she gives him the benefit of the doubt. i mean, i think she sees... she really does see him as vulnerable. she sees the version of himself that he thinks he's not showing and i think it's why he has such a hard time through a lot of the movie being with her. because on one hand i think that
to be loved by somebody who is... who actually does love you for the side of yourself you're covering up is a difficult thing to deal with because he doesn't want to acknowledge that person. so i think he gets angry at her because she's attracted to this side of him... >> rose: who-to-who he really is. >> and i don't think he ever... in the movie he's very focused on beth, who is general... jennifer plays in the movie and who he had a relationship with 14 or 15 years ago. and he thinks in his mind that's the relationship that he should be in. so he's trying to rekindle that and he sees florence, really, as sort of a distraction. he doesn't take it seriously for a lot of reasons. he just doesn't think she's a viable option for him. and so i think even that was part of his sort of... why he can't really look at her in a real way. but yet she is there. and in a certain point he is... has to acknowledge that this
person is not the idea of what he wanted to... who he wanted to be with but yet if's something there. and i think that was something you kept he reminding me november the process was like he doesn't think... he doesn't take her seriously, really. but yet this person keeps on coming back sand there for him and ends up being the person who is really there for him. >> and he's there for her. >> rose: that's what makes things work. >> right. well, he eventually shows up for her. i think it's kind of emblematic of what this character's problem has been in his life. he's seen himself in one way. he keeps thinking he's supposed to be something. and all the things that don't fit into his idea of who he is are actually the reality of his life. and he has to come to terms with that. >> rose: and then you'll be happy, i assume. >> well... >> as close to happy as a bombeck character can get. >> rose: (laughs) can baumbach characters get happy? is baumbach happy?
>> baumbach is happy. >> but you talked about what would the sequel be. what would five years down the line be? >> well, we talked about that because in an influence for the movie in a lot of ways for me was that... was a novelistic one. the saul bellow, the herzog, the zuckerman and phillip roth, the updike "rabbit" character. so when we were on the set i... i did have that idea of this would be an interesting character as those authors... bellow did it with herzog but rabbit and zuckerman, what would happen if you saw this guy ten years later, where would he be? and that's interesting to me. i... i'm curious. i don't even know. but i'm curious. >> rose: as to where he might be going. what is the most important thing that's informed screen writing for you. writing scripts. >> well i tend not to... i don't
outline or i don't... i tend not to approach scripts as stories stories. the stories generally come from the characters. usually i have an idea of a person or a relationship or... or in some case a family with "the squid and the whale" and it was divorce. and i sort of start there and i try to let it build out from there. it takes a longer time to write them for reason. but i find i work best that way. i've tried to do it the other way where i have... i beat out the plot and i try to hit each beat and go that way. but i find then i start to... i feel like i'm filling something in. it's almost been discovered already. i want it to be a process of discovery. but it's very sin mat tick way i look at it.
even though i tend to start with characters, i really think of it purely as a movie. i don't think of it as anything else. and... >> rose: at some point soon somebody is going to understand this better than i do, somebody is going to come to you and say here is a lot of money and here's a script. (laughter) and we're not looking for a baumbach character, we have the character, we have the story, it's already written. are you prepared to say yes? >> well, it's happened. >> rose: i'm sure it has. >> i... as long as i can do it this way i'd like to keep doing it this way. >> rose: you mean writing the script and directing and choosing the actors? >> i like doing the whole way. i really see film making as the whole process. i don't really distinguish. i write the scripts very much thinking thatly direct them. and i love the process of directing. i love being on a set and working with actors. working with actors is such a great pleasure of film making.
>> rose: because you see everything manifest that you have thought about and planned and written and visualized. >> well, and it also becomes totally new. i work very hard on these characters. i have very specific ideas but they're also made up. they're not real people. when the actors come in, they're making them real people. they're fictional people in a movie but they're taking it on. with "greenberg," i really think of it as a 50/50 collaboration. it's all my words but ben's brought so much of himself and i can't anticipate that when i'm writing. i don't know what that's going to be. so i mean... i love that process. i love seeing the character move away from me and become this other person. and i love the cutting. i really do... it's how i... it's what energizes me in terms... or what i think about when i think about making movies. it doesn't mean that someday i wouldn't direct some other script or write for somebody
else. but i think it's how i work best for better or for worse. >> rose: when you look at ben do you say "he's got what i've got plus"? >> you mean looks? (laughter) >> rose: no, but he thought he was going to have a career as a director. he never thought he was going to be a big movie star. did you? >> no. for me i look at noah and i'm so impressed with what he does. >> rose: as a quote film maker? >> i think as a brillia filmmaker because he writes so specifically. he writes these... as i said, these complex, interesting characters and the story to him, the character development is the story and he then allows the actors this freedom even though you're doing his words, this freedom to be what they are and to bring what they're going to bring and supports that in a way a lot of writer/directors i don't think do. they are so much so attached to an they have in their head of how they see it but he allows it
to unfold so you feel this incredible support and freedom on the set and that's exciting because suddenly the's a guy watching everything you're doing who has such a clear idea of what he wants but he's also open to what's going on in the moment. and that's... >> rose: what's the best thing for an actor's growth in >> i think taking chances. really going to a place where you haven't gone and being willing to... >> rose: outside your comfort zone? >> being willing to fail. i think you've got to be able to take that chance otherwise i think it's the opposite. >> rose: what's the best example of that for you? >> well, for me it's... i mean, doing this movie was nothing short of just an incredible experience for me. because i feel like the film making is a director's medium and you want to take those chances and you want to go out there but new the hands of the filmmaker and you have to trust the filmmaker.
as long as you can trust that person it's basically you either trust or don't trust. and if you trust that person you take the chances and you go with it and that's what i've felt. but noah i felt i could trust and then you're, like, okay, i'll do whatever. >> rose: sthet scene up. this is ivan and greenberg. they go out to a restaurant to celebrate greenberg's birthday. set it up and how you as a director saw it. >> well, i saw it... greenberg... i think there's a side of greenberg that wants to show boat a little even though he's... on one hand he doesn't want attention but at the same time he wants lots of attention and so it's a lot of that like don't look at me don't look at me but you really want them. so he's... they go out to a restaurant for his berth day and he i think there's almost a giddiness about him. he... there's probably a side of him that wishes this was a major party with lots of people instead of just him and his old friend and so he's...
>> the best he could do. >> it is the best he could do and he gets kind of... he gets on a roll and starts to feel good about himself and then he starts to think, well, maybe i could do better than this right now. >> rose: (laughs) >> yeah. and ivan was his best audience. he's the guy he could count on to appreciate. >> rose: he knows ivan will be cheering for him. >> he knows he'll get his joke. >> people don't call on my birthday anymore. i guess i don't call people on their birthdays, why should they call me? i didn't call you. when's yours? >> november. >> that's right. i'll call you this year. >> laughing already demonstrates appreciation. the applause seems officer flew white house. and also it's like just treat the restaurant like it's your
living room, guys. i'm weirdly on tonight. >> shall we order? >> maybe i should have invited florence. or i should have had a party. >> birthdays are hard, man. >> it's weird, aging, right? like what the [no audio] going on? >> i know. youth is wasted on the young. >> i'd go further. i'd go life is wasted on... people. >> rose: you once said somewhere a that the fragmentation of culture makes satirical more challenging. >> did i? (laughter) i'm very, very smart. (laughter) >> i was drunk, charlie. >> rose: as soon as i saw that, as soon as i saw that i said no, no, put this away. either that or he's going to forget he said it or somebody else said it. >> i think i... >> rose: or he was drunk. >> i was drunk. i pull that out at every party.
somebody says "here we go again." >> rose: just give us five minutes on why that's true. (laughter) or would you like ten? >> i'm curious what he's going to come up with. >> i am, too. >> i think it was the context of that was, yeah, someone was asking me about how you do satire or parody today and there is so much out there. there's so much to... so many... first of all in terms of, like, access to film making. now this digital age everybody can make movies and they do and so to be able to, i guess, satirize what's going on in the culture when there's, i guess, less of a... less to... of one thing to satirize because there's been so many different elements to pop culture now, i guess. and people are constantly referring to it and what they do so it's hard to even comment on that. i don't know. ive no idea what i was saying.
>> that was really sad. >> you have to be drink to... (laughter) >> rose: no need to clap, either because the laugh was enough. >> yeah. you know, i mean... i don't know. it's kind of like do you... satire, too, to me, like that sort of term to me is such a... it's a... what does that mean, to satirize something? >> rose: well, if you don't know. didn't you start off in satire? >> i think i was more parody. parody is one thing. i think if you're commenting on something somehow... i think people think if you do satire it's hard to have an emotional connection with the characters because you're making a statement as opposed to viscerally connecting. that's what i like about this movie is i think noah is able to sort of comment on what's going on in the world and the people but in a way you're connecting with the characters, not just an idea. you're actually the real people. >> rose: when you came out for
the academy awards as a character from i can't have i can't have and you were giving away... "avatar" and you awarding best in makeup. was that your idea or was that someone else's idea? >> that was noah's idea. (laughter) no, it was an idea that came up... >> rose: because "avenue "avatar was not nominated." >> it was an idea... i can't claim credit for the idea. it was an idea that was out there and at one point it was going to be sasha baron cohen doing it. then it ended up being me. but i dream one day of talking about it very seriously. and charlie you asking me "when you came out dressed as a na'vi, what went through your head?" >> rose: (laughs) i did say that. i said whose idea was it. (laughter) roger comes outs of what for you? you knew rojer? you knew a rojer?
you knew a composite of rogers? you knew some of rojer in yourself? >> yeah. i mean i know a few of them. i also have seen... a lot of his his behavior comes from me. not necessarily... >> rose: what you imagined his behavior would be if you had his... >> well, at points in my life where i was more frustrated with how things were going or... it's hard to believe but i wasn't always successful. >> rose: but better things were driving you in what i read called "career stall" where you had a career stall. >> oh, career stall. >> rose: did you know that when you had it? >> no, thankfully. >> rose: but you did it pretty well, though. you survived it, clearly. >> i had a gap between movies. >> rose: "gap" would be better. >> "career stall. i like that. just reading that on the sheet. oh god. >> rose: oh, god. what does that mean. this is before the... you got all the financing together for "squid and the whale."
>> yeah, because i sort of made my first... i made my first two movies i was 25 and 27 or something. it was a lot to do that early. but i... so i've... i've had... i felt similarly to the way roger does at points. just frustration with the world, blaming other people for your own inability to.... >> rose: if they would just recognize my talent everything would be fine. >> right, right. just give me shot. i know i could... and... but i also, i know just coming out of college and i had lots of friends. i think those early years where you... and i know lots of people. ben and i talked about this and also people in bands who i know, which is the specifics in the movie who in the beginning it's all out of friendship, you're just doing it because you love it and then when commerce or the
opportunity comes in suddenly you're not prepared to look at it that way and people end up really resending each other and people act badly and do things selfishly or do things in some cases because they feel they have to and other people get left behind. and i've seen so much of that. and that was something that i wanted to get into with "greenberg." it seemed... that seemed like antipoe logically right for the character that he would have gone through this. >> rose: what do you think, ben, is the reason that some people... is it luck? is it talent? is it chance? is it whatever in that people you know who were at a certain place with you who had comparable talent and yet you're where you are and they are struggling. and maybe even have gotten out of the business. i mean, your parents, for example, until they came together, were thinking about this might not be good enough for us. >> yeah. yeah.
i mean, it's a really tough business and i don't know what the reason is. i think it is luck. a lot of it is luck, opportunity breaks. i remember... i remember william hurt... my dad did a play with william hurt "hurly-burly" 20 something years ago and i was... i remember talking to him once, i was a huge william hurt fan and so happy to have the opportunity to hang out with him while he was doing this play and i remember him telling me one night saying "i know so many people who are so talented who have just literally perseverance being able to take it, being able to take the rejection, not getting in your own way. i think that's the thing with "greenberg"... >> rose: exactly right. >> it's hard not to sometimes get cynical bitter or allow that to build a wall up between you and the world and not want to open yourself up and put yourself out there because it's
really tough. but i think it's... there's no one answer. it's a tough, tough business and you know, "greenberg" is a guy who i think had talent and had opportunities but was very idealistic and probably had a real sense of himself and an ego and probably should have taken the record deal. he had the opportunity and he didn't. probably thought he would have other opportunities and he let himself get in his own way early on and here we are 20 years later and it's... you know, he's living with the sort of... that sort of what happens when... you know, the results of that. he's... and he didn't cultivate relationships. he probably wasn't open enough or generous enough with people. i don't think he's a bad person, just think he wasn't thinking that way and here he is at this point in his life where he's sort of having a crisis in that he's coming to terms with the fact that he isn't what he wants to be and he's kind of alone in the world. because he doesn't have many successes that we all rev
rejections and failed relationships that we would look back at and go "i wish i did that differently." and he hasn't been fortunate enough to have any successes have made that have made those failures seem less important. >> rose: as a movie audience, why should i care about him? >> it's a human struggle. what he's going through is a very human thing. noah decided to write about a person that is trying to get through the day. he's trying to live with his own... with his... keep his go intact. his sense of self intact which i think we all are trying to do you have to live with these little everyday... those little... those moments in life where somebody says something to you that hurts your feelingstor guy who gets the job that you wanted and you can't go around feeling sorry for yourself about it but it hurts a little bit. these little minor indignities
that happen to us throughout our lives and yet when you don't have a family there supporting you or you don't have any successes that can boost your ego you have to live with yourself and i think this guy is just trying to get through the day. he's trying to keep his sense of self intact and he can't keep it up anymore and he's treading water and when the movie starts he's gone under. he spent a couple weeks in a hospital probably some sort of a breakdown that he can't even admit and it's exhausting. it's exhausting for him to try to keep it up everyday and i think that's something... a struggle that's worthy of showing because i think people like that deserve to be paid attention to even if they're not necessarily the easiest people to get along with. >> rose: look at this scene. i love this scene. this is where greenberg and florence it is in the waiting room with the dog mahler who's very sick.
>> how long do we wait? >> i don't know. they seem kind of busy. >> should i go ask? >> if you want. >> do you want to do it? >> oh, okay. they know we're here but... hi. do you know how much longer for maller? >> you know, i think we're just waiting for a doctor to get out of the room. >> okay. >> she thinks they're just waiting for a doctor to get out of the room. >> yeah, i could hear her. >> rose: the other thing interesting about greenberg, conversation is pained, is it not? or not? >> it's pained and sometimes it's compulsive. i think he... conversation
sometimes takes the place of action for him. he can't... >> it's both of those. >> rose: >> he's feeling frustrate sod he talks about... the scene we said before where he's talking about the guy at the other table. he's almost generating... >> rose: that's what i mean. >> activity by conversation. >> rose: it's not a natural flow for him so he's looking for something just to fill the air. >> yeah. and he can't... the conversation is not a two-way street for him. i don't think... it's... conversation is him talking and he just has somebody there. >> and waiting if the person to stop talking to he can say the next thing that he's thought of based on what they said. that's what's interesting about what noah's dialogue is. he writes the way people like that talk which is there's a thought and somebody else says something and then he'll keep on going with the thought he had before and maybe retroactively respond to what the person said. it's all there in the dialogue. and i think for greenberg it's a defense, too, because he is smart enough to be able to sort of use those words as sort of a deflector shield from actually
feeling anything. >> rose: all right. look at this. i want to show this because jennifer jason leigh is in this scene between... she plays beth, who is the former girlfriend. here it is. >> what are you doing these days? you're in new york, right? >> yeah. >> making music? >> oh, i haven't played music in years. i'm a carpenter, you know, for money. but right now i'm really trying to do nothing for a while. >> that's brave at our age. >> i'm here for a few weeks at my brother's and you want to have a drink or something? >> um, sure, okay. >> rose: how did the two of you work together? i mean, she clearly is a collaborator. >> yeah, she was a big part of this. i had shown her a very early draft of the script. i don't even know if it was finished. it was the earliest i've shown her something. even before this movie i would show her everything and she... she's got a great... she can look at some rambling scene that
i've written and say "this is the scene." she can say "take out this stuff, this right here is what the scene is about" in a way that i... it would probably take know who years of rewriting to get to that point. she's really incisive. >> rose: (laughs) very helpful, then. >> yeah. with this movie i showed her the movie very early and because this movie is so character-based i had all these really strong ideas about greenberg and florence in los angeles but i had no idea how well these people were going to interact, how it was going to work. and she was invaluable in that she really... i think she had the idea maybe florence is a personal assistant. which i had had a lot of the character of florence but making her a personal assistant first of all made it easier for her and greenberg to meet. >> rose: former personal assistant to his brother. >> and since greenberg doesn't leave the house, it was like well how could he meet anybody? she'd have to come into his life. it made it great that way. but it also said so much about florence. that this character who puts other people in front of herself
what a perfect job for that person. and so it's... she was so helpful so quickly that i wanted to involve her in a more official way. >> rose: i should make the point in this movie that roger is going to live in his brother's house while his brother and his family are in vietnam. >> yeah, they're doing some business vacation trip there. he's more successful than roger and his brother, younger, a little more successful, roger is staying at the house for a few weeks. >> rose: you have a whole lineup of stuff you're getting ready to do, according to what i read. >> i know, i... >> but not really honestly. >> rose: what does not really honestly mean? >> what it means, charlie, is that i have a... (laughter) that i am a liar and you should never believe what you read on the internet. i know you're there surfing the internet reading. >> can't get him off. >> rose: give me something on
stiller. >> screw around, who cares ant china. >> there's a lot of stuff because we have a production company so there's a lot of stuff that's out there but i don't know what i'm doing next. >> rose: wait, wait, stop. >> honestly. >> rose: you don't know what you're doing next? >> i do not. >> rose: you have options but you don't know which option you're going to choose? >> yes, yes. exactly, exactly. i'm trying to keep it open a little bit because, you know, life i think is good to have a little bit... this movie for me was a great experience because what it showed me is you can have an experience that will change how you feel when the experience is over about what you want to do next. and this movie did that for me. >> rose: are the studios let you make a movie you're not in? i.e. will l they let you direct a film you're not in? >> i think they might. i think they might. >> rose: might! >> i really haven't pursued anything seriously like that. "cable guy" i directed. that worked out great.
(laughter) the >> "career stall." >> that was my career stall. >> rose: maybe career stall with him. >> i definitely had... after "cable guy" i was told chill out for a few months. >> rose: and it turned out to be... >> yeah, i think so. i mean, first... >> rose: so the reason you're in all your movies is because you want knob all your muse vie? >> i don't want to be in all of them. i actually really looked forward to directing movies i'm not in. i haven't directed that often and usually these projects when they come together, they come together where i would never direct something that i was in if i... i've... i have exhausted the opportunity... in "zoolander" i went look frg people to direct it and i couldn't get people to direct it. >> rose: it's your favorite movie, is it not? >> i really enjoyed making that movie. and i love working with actors. so i looked forward to directing movies i'm not in. it just sort of happened that
way and, you know, i think as an actor you're so limited by how you get cast, by who you are, what you look like, how old you are, all these things. as you go along in your career there's a freedom that comes with being age to direct thingss and having nothing do with it so i look forward to that. >> rose: we don't know yet what you're going to do next? >> um, it's up to this guy. we'll see. >> rose: so fe f he had something really great... >> yes. >> rose: he would move to the front of the line. >> yeah, for sure. >> rose: i'm trying to help you out here. >> we can talk to my agent. but i think he's amazing. i had such a great experience working with him and, so, yeah. hopefully. >> rose: are you embarrassed to hear this? you've heard it before or... >> i think it's great. i mean, i feel the same way. i mean, i really... i think the way i naturally approach character and writing is something that it i think it's a
language we share. when you meet somebody who for whatever reason you feel like you know this person or you connect to something in this person and i've worked with a lot of actors who i loved and i loved working with them but i didn't necessarily have that. and i feel like ben and i have that. and that inspires know want to keep coming up with things for him to do. >> rose: the movies is called (laughs) "greenberg." it opened on friday, march 26. thank you. >> thanks. >> thank you. >> good to see you. >> rose: thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org ♪